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Fernandez tabbed for first All-Star selection

Fernandez tabbed for first All-Star selection

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ST. LOUIS -- His story is worthy of Hollywood, but for now, Jose Fernandez will be taking it to Broadway.

Add yet another major stage for one of the brightest young stars in the game.

Fernandez, the hard-throwing right-hander, on Saturday was selected to represent the Miami Marlins at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16.

It's the latest monumental achievement for the 20-year-old, who has already overcome so many obstacles. His first big league start came against the Mets at Citi Field, and he is eager to head back.

"I've been thinking about it, too," Fernandez said. "My first start in the big leagues was in New York. The All-Star Game is going to be there. It's going to be really exciting and really fun to go back there. A lot of memories are going to come back there."


As a baseball player, Fernandez made the leap to the big leagues without the seasoning beyond Class A ball. The initial plan was for him to start at Double-A Jacksonville, but he made the Opening Day roster because Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez each started off on the disabled list. From a personal standpoint, his saga is of triumph and the pursuit of freedom.

"Everybody knows I was not supposed to start with the team this year," Fernandez said. "Things happened, and I got a chance to pitch. Now, I have a chance to be on the All-Star team, it's just something that for sure I wanted to do in my career, to be there with those guys. Those are the best players in the world. I've got a chance now to do it at 20. Just to think about it is something I will remember for the rest of my life."

Five years ago, Fernandez defected from his native Cuba, and settled in Tampa, where he became a sensation at Alonso High School. Armed with a 96 mph fastball, he had a college commitment to the University of South Florida, but instead turned pro after the Marlins selected him 14th overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

In half of his rookie season, Fernandez already has established that he not only belongs in the big leagues, but he fits in with the game's elite.

"I think you are looking at the guy who as the ability to be the face of our franchise," manager Mike Redmond said. "A guy who is 20 years old, and he's been so good. You look at his story and what he's able to do. He's a great story. He's got the ability to be a No. 1 pitcher for a long time."

Fernandez is the Marlins' first rookie pitcher to be selected as an All-Star since Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

National League roster
Starters
C Yadier Molina, STL
1B Joey Votto, CIN
2B Brandon Phillips, CIN
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Troy Tulowitzki, COL
OF Carlos Beltran, STL
OF Carlos Gonzalez, COL
OF Bryce Harper, WAS
Pitchers
LHP Madison Bumgarner, SF
LHP Aroldis Chapman, CIN
LHP Patrick Corbin, ARI
RHP Jose Fernandez, MIA
RHP Jason Grilli, PIT
RHP Matt Harvey, NYM
LHP Clayton Kershaw, LAD
RHP Craig Kimbrel, ATL
LHP Cliff Lee, PHI
LHP Jeff Locke, PIT
RHP Adam Wainwright, STL
LHP Travis Wood, CHC
RHP Jordan Zimmermann, WAS
Reserves
C Buster Posey, SF
1B Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
1B Allen Craig, STL
2B Matt Carpenter, STL
2B Marco Scutaro, SF
SS Everth Cabrera, SD
SS Jean Segura, MIL
3B Pedro Alvarez, PIT
OF Domonic Brown, PHI
OF Michael Cuddyer, COL
OF Carlos Gomez, MIL
OF Andrew McCutchen, PIT

Because of his youth and inexperience, the Marlins have Fernandez on a loose pitch limit this season. The franchise has placed a 150-170 range, and he is at 92 2/3 innings right now.

In terms of performance, Fernandez has already shown he is more than capable of dominating at the highest level. He is 5-4 with a 2.72 ERA on a last-place team. He next takes the mound on Sunday in Miami's series finale at St. Louis.

Being a rookie thrust to the big leagues with just 138 1/3 total Minor League innings, no one really knew what to expect from Fernandez.

Actually, someone had a clue. It was Miami's pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who had seen the right-hander in high school.

"To be honest with you, when we left Spring Training, I thought he'd be good," Hernandez said. "I thought he would be highly regarded, and I thought we'd be robbing the bank, because those five innings of Double-A he'd be getting, he could be getting six innings in the big leagues. There is no comparison in development. Put him in the place he belongs."

Hernandez relays the story of when he was working at the University of South Florida and he went to scout Fernandez. Immediately the coach realized there was no chance the right-hander was going to college.

Hernandez went back and told the staff that the right-hander was a likely first-rounder.

"I thought anyone in the Top 10 could have taken him and been happy with the pick," Hernandez said.

For the third straight year, the Marlins will have just one All-Star. A year ago it was Giancarlo Stanton, who ended up missing the game along with the Home Run Derby due to right knee surgery. And in 2011, Gaby Sanchez was the choice.

From Saturday to Thursday, July 11, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com for the final player for each League's All-Star roster.

And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.

The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Each big league team must have a representative. For the Marlins, no position players ranked among the leaders in the fan voting. But Fernandez in terms of performance stacks up with the best in the National League.

"I got lucky to be picked and to be with all these incredible players," Fernandez said. "I've tried to learn as much as I can. I think that's going to be a big experience. I'm going to enjoy it, and learn from it as much as I can."

His 2.72 ERA is ninth best, and tops among NL rookie starters. His 94 strikeouts are 18th.

"He's one of the best in the game, obviously," Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison said. "He doesn't care what anybody thinks about him. He's going to go out and give it his best shot and dominate. He's a bulldog out there, and it's awesome."

As Fernandez continues to develop at the big league level, the Marlins see their obligation to make sure he remains grounded.

"Staying together and keeping his feet on the ground," Hernandez said. "I never doubted that he had that kind of talent, to be honest with you.

"I'm not totally surprised, because even though he's child-like in many facets, having fun and stuff. He's a bright guy. He's no dumb dumb. It's not like he walks around saying, 'I've got a great arm.' He really is conscious and meticulous about staying on top of every facet of his game, which really intrigues me. He really impresses me from game to game. Even when he has a good outing, there are things we talk about."

Fernandez maintains his upbringing keeps him from getting ahead of himself.

He's already been through so much, growing up in Cuba, and throwing and hitting rocks when he didn't have a baseball to toss around.

Four different times, Fernandez attempted to flee Cuba, and he spent time in jail for his failed efforts.

In April 2005, accompanied by his mother, he finally was able to escape via a boat that sped away, avoiding machine gun fire. During the trip, a woman fell off the boat into the water. Fernandez jumped in to save the lady, who turned out being his mother.

For all Fernandez went through in his pursuit of freedom, pitching was the easy part of his life.

Now, he's brought energy and spirit to a young Miami squad looking to also establish itself.

"It's his energy," Redmond said. "There are times he pitches like he's 25, and there are times when he pitches like he's 20. That's the beauty on this game. He's able to feel that and learn from it.

"He doesn't sit on the bench. He's up moving, talking to the guys. He's cheering. He's doing all these things. He's a great teammate. He's the total package. I hope in 10 years he is the same guy. I hope we sit there and say, 'He's the same guy.' Having fun. Loving it. I hope this never becomes a job to him, because it's fun to watch him."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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